Volume 2 Issue 3

Who is Knocking on Doors in Jefferson County?

“We have several locals in significant crisis... in Loveland, Thornton, and Jefferson County.” So said Colorado Education Association (CEA) President Kerrie Dallman from the stage of the National Education Association (NEA) conference in Denver this summer. Was Dallman, who was a Jeffco teacher before leading the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) and then taking the reins of the Colorado state union, speaking about the lack of third grade reading proficiency or the horrific remediation rates of our high school graduates? If so, we might have had something upon which all of us could focus and work to improve. 

However, Dallman was not talking about academic performance, nor was she speaking about the need to pay teachers as professionals. She was speaking about the union losing control to “hostile school boards.” She underlined the union’s focus with the proclamation: “We organize, we organize, we organize at the grassroots level to make the educator voice strong and loud.” She went on, thanking “. . . the staff and leaders from the 18 states around the country who are sending 48 staff (i.e., UniServ staff) . . . to help in our largest local, Jefferson County.”

National union employees were in Jeffco this summer knocking on doors and spreading the message among their members that the school board majority is “hostile” to their priorities. Last year, Jefferson County residents dared to elect three new members to the Board of Education who were not the union’s preferred candidates.

Dallman’s summertime assertion that “. . . we here in Colorado have several locals in significant crisis [including] Jefferson County. . .” underlines the sense of urgency the union has in retaking control of the district. A quick perusal of the NEA Strategic Plan and Budget for 2014-16 lists organizing as one of their primary goals. With an annual budget over $350 million, they can make a lot of phone calls, knock on a lot of doors, and impact public perceptions. When their local affiliate’s organizational power is under threat, the NEA will react. Their budget even states a goal of building support by collecting and managing data in order to “identify threats” and developing a communications strategy.

That must be what they meant in a recent issue of the JCEA “Insight” newsletter where they refer to “field tested” messaging. You will hear themes of secrecy, waste, and disrespect run throughout all of the union conversations. They are strongly encouraging their supporters to “go public” and share these messages with the neighborhood (never mind accuracy — so long as the messages have been “field tested”).

Particularly interesting was this statement from the NEA Budget on page 18: “Develop, execute, and win electoral campaigns through messages to members and the public using members’ voices, third party validators, social media, and paid and earned media.”

A third party validator might be something like a PTA or other parent group that has
been successfully organized using “field tested” messages. In fact, Dallman also said
at the NEA conference in July, “In Jeffco this spring, 2,000 teachers, education support professionals, parents and students turned out for OUR Boots on the Blvd protest.” [emphasis added]. We wonder if any of the parents or students who were waving signs on street corners realized they were part of a union protest. These union- backed and organized events are part of an overall strategy to take back control. It might also help explain why so much of the vitriol on social media and elsewhere uses the same language, and why some of the Jeffco PTA leaders are also saying “waste, secrecy, and disrespect” when discussing the Jeffco school board. 

The union has done such a masterful job of creating chaos and uncertainty, and using the tactic of disputing any fact by questioning the motives of their opponents. Really? The Jeffco board just approved significant raises for nearly all teachers. Is it “disrespectful” to give more teachers raises? The misinformation is quite difficult to break through. 

If indeed the message is as honest as they claim, then they should have no misgivings about allowing the public to hear what Jeffco Students First and other groups have to say, and to engage in an honest debate. Instead, the union side opens websites and Facebook pages without giving any indication as to their origins while restricting access to comments. And incredibly, the PTA would not allow Jeffco Students First a table at their recent training. Jeffco PTA president Michelle Patterson sent this response to the request to be a Silver Sponsor: “While we appreciate your attention to this event we feel our Fall Conference Training is not an appropriate venue for your organization’s participation.” However, the union organization “Stand Up For All Students” was allowed a table. It seems pretty obvious that the coordinated messaging you hear from every critical quarter when it comes to the new school board is mostly due to the organizing capacity and skills of the union. “Follow the money” indeed – a budget of $350 million is nothing to sneeze at.

Clearly, Jeffco community members need to exercise their critical thinking skills right now. Who knocked on your door? Did they talk to you about how to improve student achievement? Or did you hear “secrecy, waste, and disrespect”?

Our great teachers expect their students to do their homework and get informed. How ironic then that an organization representing and collecting money from teachers would rather just repeat a mantra and keep you in the dark.

So much for standing up for education.